Former President Bill Clinton said Tuesday he believes that an immigration reform bill will pass overwhelmingly in the Democratic-controlled Senate and faces a more uphill climb in the Republican-led House, but that it would ultimately get through Congress.
“They’re going to pass this immigration reform, I think, and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t get 70 votes in the Senate,” he said, citing “just the pure demographics of it.”
“The Republicans, I think, know they can’t be a national party if they lose 72, 75 percent of the Latino vote and, you know, three or four more times, the numbers are only going to get bigger,” Mr. Clinton said.
Mr. Clinton made the remarks during a question-and-answer session after delivering a lecture at Georgetown University in concert with his global foundation.
“And I think the same thing is true of [Asian voters],” he said. “When we had a huge influx of Asian immigrants, a lot of the Vietnamese were militantly anti-communist and came here and were inclined to vote Republican because they perceived that the Republicans were more anti-communist than the Democrats and that the Democrats had driven the country’s disengagement from Vietnam, even though President Ford was in office when the last troops were withdrawn. And all of that’s changed over all this immigration business, so that now the Democrats tend to get a big majority of the Asian vote, too, and they’re growing like crazy. So I think just for sheer demographic credence, we’re going to get it.”
Mr. Clinton also said there were “economic imperatives” involved, and that the U.S. has not been historically resistant to immigrants.
Though he did say it would ultimately pass, he hedged slightly on predicting the immigration bill’s prospects in the House.
The former president said two obstacles are a potential filibuster in the Senate and whether or not House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, will allow a Senate-passed bill to come to the floor if it doesn’t have the support of a majority of House Republicans.
“I think it is possible, depending on the details of the paths to citizenship…that there won’t be a majority of the Republican House caucus for it, and then they’ll have to decide whether to let it come to the floor or not, but I really think this will pass,” he said.
President Obama said at a press conference Tuesday that he would not sign immigration legislation that does not give illegal immigrants a definite path to citizenship, but said he could back the bipartisan compromise bill now being written in the Senate.
The crux of the current bill in the Senate is a deal that first grants illegal immigrants legal status and work permits, but withholds a full pathway to citizenship until the federal government has taken more steps on border security, has finalized an electronic verification system for employers to check new hires, and has completed an entry-exit visa check system at air and seaports — though not at land border crossings.